Let me preface this by saying that Black Tusk is by far the most challenging hike I have done. The hike is steep, long, and strenuous in the summer heat. Please begin early in the day to give yourself plenty of time to return in daylight, and pack food, lots of water, bug spray and sun cream. Wear sturdy hiking boots for the loose ground and creeks you have to cross.
The hike is stunning. Don't let the difficulty of the hike turn you away - prepare well and take your time and you will be rewarded with some of the most stunning views that British Columbia has to offer. The trail up to Black Tusk winds through gorgeous alpine meadows while the backdrop of the serene Garibaldi Lake sits in your view as you climb steadily upwards. After the difficult hike up the Tusk, dipping into the icy Garibaldi Lake is a welcome relief.
Turn off the Sea-to-Sky Highway and park at the Rubble Creek Parking Lot. We (Sam, myself, Laura and Dom) started hiking at 5:50am and were greeted with cooler temperatures and much emptier trails than later in the day when we passed hundreds of people on our way back down. The first 6km of the hike is steep switchbacks through the forest.
Just past the 6km marker you will come to an intersection; take a left turn here towards Taylor Meadows. The trail becomes somewhat easier here, across boardwalks through incredible wildflower-filled alpine meadows, surrounded on all sides by the most gorgeous snow-capped mountains. Approximately 4km later, you will come to the second intersection. Turn left just past the map post to the Black Tusk trail. This is a 3.5km steep climb straight upwards.
This is the most beautiful section of the trail, as Garibaldi Lake comes into view and you are rewarded while you climb with stunning panoramic views over the meadows and valleys of Garibaldi Provincial Park.
Once you have reached the sign post at the summit marking the end of the maintained trail, continue upwards through dark black shale. This is the riskiest section of the trail, complete with loose and crumbling rocks underfoot while you scramble steeply up towards the ridge. It's worth it for the incredible views you get from the top. Friendly note: the view from the ridge at the base of the Tusk is practically the same as the peak of the Tusk, and a heck of a lot less risky. Do what you will with that information.
Return the way you came, and at the four-way intersection, turn left for a 2km downhill trek to Garibaldi Lake. The lake is a gorgeous aqua blue, perfect for a cool dip after a hot hike. From Garibaldi Lake, the trail returns 9km to the parking lot, joining up with the switchbacks to go back the way you came. For those who don't want to make the trek in one day, or want to spend more time exploring the park, camping is available by reservation at various spots throughout the park.
Another fantastic hike in Garibaldi is Panorama Ridge with stunning views over Garibaldi Lake and an incredible view back towards Black Tusk.
BLACK TUSK & GARIBALDI LAKE HIKE DETAILS
When: July to October, depending on snow conditions
Where: Garibaldi Provincial Park, between Squamish and Whistler
Difficulty: very difficult
Length: 7.5 hours for 31km round-trip, but give yourself at least 9-10 hours to return in daylight
Directions: Vancouver Trails and see my notes above to combine Black Tusk and Garibaldi Lake
Bathrooms: yes, at: the parking lot, Taylor Meadows campground, the second intersection, and at Garibaldi Lake
Public Transit: no